Israelis pride themselves on their informality, but deliberate disregard for proper procedure can often backfire, as Priti Patel, the former British cabinet minister, found out to her cost last week. And she is not the only person to fall foul of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s casual approach to governance.
First to Patel. The former British international development secretary spent her summer holiday in Israel meeting with high-level Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid. Not my idea of an ideal itinerary for what Patel described as a “family holiday,” but each to their own.
In these meetings, Patel reportedly discussed the possibility of sending British aid money to the IDF for its humanitarian work with Syrian refugees in the Golan Heights. Given Britain’s official position of not recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, this was always going to be an unlikely ask.
It was not, though, the topic of her discussions that cost Patel her job but rather the fact she failed to properly inform the official channels back in London as to just how she was spending her holiday. Astoundingly, she met Prime Minister Netanyahu without any other British officials present and without letting 10 Downing Street or the Foreign Office know in advance of her plans.
So once the Foreign Office learned through its own sources of these meetings, it was only a question of time before the BBC was tipped off about Patel’s secret diplomacy. In what surely was not a coincidence, the news broke when Netanyahu was in London, a day after dining with British Prime Minister Theresa May to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. Israel was back in the…